Momcat

Playing with opposite gender--primary age

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So, my 8-year-old daughter has a favorite friend from school who happens to be a boy. I've gotten to know the mom, and she's amazing, they're just the most wonderful family ever. My daughter asked if she could go over to their house and I said, "yeah!" and set it up without even giving it another thought....

Until now. Now I'm wondering, was I in the wrong? 

What do you think about letting your primary-age child visit and play with friends of the opposite gender? 

I know that For the Strength of Youth advises not to date until 16. But at age 8 they're not thinking in terms of dating, and neither was I.

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As I think about your questions I find myself also thinking about my grandchildren, my kids when they were your daughter's age, and myself when I was that age. At times as I remember my childhood experiences I shudder at how quickly and for how long I often wandered from a point where my parents knew my precise location to places where they couldn't possibly have a clue where I was. Partly because of those memories some of my parenting tactics differed from those of my mom and dad, and I went to great lengths to "keep my kids in my sights" even when they didn't know. And yet some things I didn't particularly approve still occurred--no surprise, right?  

By contrast, sort of, a friend years ago when I was raising my babies *seemed* to let her 8 children do what they wished and where they wished to do it. There were broken bones, bandages crutches, etc., etc. But as far as I can know those kids survived to adulthood. (And their father, a bishop, was recently killed by a drunk driver.)😭

I have a dear friend who as a child before the age of 12 was sexually abused repeatedly by a cousin.😡

And today I worry constantly about my sweet grandsons.

You probably didn't find anything in my remarks that qualifies as advice. Neither did I. :)  If I try to think of a point perhaps its only to observe that being a parent is at once so darned tough and so marvelously sweet, so sublime and so scary. I suppose that I'm like you--I prayed a lot, I cried a lot, I laughed a lot, I relied at times on some of the other villagers, I regretted some of my mistakes (both the commissions and the omissions), I thanked God for these precious souls, and I sometimes looked up at the sky and cried out, "Why?".  

In my heart I wish everything good for you and your sweet daughter. 💛

 


 

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On 11/27/2019 at 8:40 PM, Momcat said:

So, my 8-year-old daughter has a favorite friend from school who happens to be a boy. I've gotten to know the mom, and she's amazing, they're just the most wonderful family ever. My daughter asked if she could go over to their house and I said, "yeah!" and set it up without even giving it another thought....

Until now. Now I'm wondering, was I in the wrong? 

What do you think about letting your primary-age child visit and play with friends of the opposite gender? 

I know that For the Strength of Youth advises not to date until 16. But at age 8 they're not thinking in terms of dating, and neither was I.

I think it's great that you're already thinking of the standards in For the Strength of Youth. About every other year our family has a Family Home Evening on church milestones. At 8 you're baptized, 12 you perform baptisms for the dead, 14 you can attend dances, at 16 you can date, and at 18 you're own your own (with priesthood ordinations sprinkled in for the boys). This sets the framework for the ongoing reinforcement of our family standards.

I'd recommend you also determine what your family standards are and move forward with those. I imagine your daughter has a bedtime that you were able to set without worry about if other parents thought you prudish. Do the same with your other family standards.

Since that particular standard at hand is concern about young dating, I'll mention a resource for your consideration. The Church has published a A Parent's Guide to aid parents as a sort of sex-ed (including hygiene, social respect, and of course reproduction) broken down by age brackets. 

 

And as long as I have this mike, I'll post some of my own observations on young children. At age 4-5, girls start forming "power triangles". It's a social dynamic where girls try to be the queen bee (and part of the primary power triangle) and exercise power over other girls. The malicious form (these groups don't have to be malicious, but those are the ones to look out for) of this has the queen bee playing power games at the expense of other girls - within her own triangle by including and excluding girls that had been excluded and included before, and over others in general. Even though your daughter is older than this, this dynamic never really goes away, so train your child on how to navigate her integrity inside and outside of these groups.

At this age boys have a physicality they aren't sure what to do with. The training they need from this age onward is they don't use their strength (strength will grow into other power and influence, but we start with strength) to hurt others. And they use their strength to help and defend others. And just like you taught your daughter how to handle herself when other girls are abusing their social cache, you should also teach your daughter how to handle herself when boys abuse their physical strength.

At age 6-7, girls start bringing boys into the power triangle. The boys aren't really part of the triangle, but they can be brought in or out as a way to show power. Additionally, they begin to show interest in experimenting with more advanced forms of relationships. They begin to look into the boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic. That's not to say your daughter is, but she certainly has friends who are claiming to have a boyfriend. At this stage, what a boyfriend is/does is nebulous but significant. It's a clear milestone! At this age it's probably better to focus on what sort of one-on-one behaviors are socially appropriate and which are not.

At this age boys are learning more about the social hierarchy among boys. I don't believe I've noticed one initiate the bf/gf dynamic, but they'll go along with it if asked.

At 8-9 boys will begin bringing girls into the social dynamic. Having a girlfriend becomes a status symbol. Not that your daughter's friend views it like this, but there are boys she knows at this age who are experimenting with this new social relationship. She may be approached for a date or to be someone's girlfriend and should know how to handle that scenario.

At 10-12 girls learn that sex is power. They notice that boys wear a goofy look when they sit too close. They notice older women with their makeup get what they want. As with social and physical cases earlier, they need to be taught not to abuse this power and to recognize examples of that abuse.

I haven't observed much beyond that, so after the next few years you're on your own.

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On 11/29/2019 at 11:19 PM, mordorbund said:

I think it's great that you're already thinking of the standards in For the Strength of Youth. About every other year our family has a Family Home Evening on church milestones. At 8 you're baptized, 12 you perform baptisms for the dead, 14 you can attend dances, at 16 you can date, and at 18 you're own your own (with priesthood ordinations sprinkled in for the boys). This sets the framework for the ongoing reinforcement of our family standards.

I'd recommend you also determine what your family standards are and move forward with those. I imagine your daughter has a bedtime that you were able to set without worry about if other parents thought you prudish. Do the same with your other family standards.

Since that particular standard at hand is concern about young dating, I'll mention a resource for your consideration. The Church has published a A Parent's Guide to aid parents as a sort of sex-ed (including hygiene, social respect, and of course reproduction) broken down by age brackets. 

 

And as long as I have this mike, I'll post some of my own observations on young children. At age 4-5, girls start forming "power triangles". It's a social dynamic where girls try to be the queen bee (and part of the primary power triangle) and exercise power over other girls. The malicious form (these groups don't have to be malicious, but those are the ones to look out for) of this has the queen bee playing power games at the expense of other girls - within her own triangle by including and excluding girls that had been excluded and included before, and over others in general. Even though your daughter is older than this, this dynamic never really goes away, so train your child on how to navigate her integrity inside and outside of these groups.

At this age boys have a physicality they aren't sure what to do with. The training they need from this age onward is they don't use their strength (strength will grow into other power and influence, but we start with strength) to hurt others. And they use their strength to help and defend others. And just like you taught your daughter how to handle herself when other girls are abusing their social cache, you should also teach your daughter how to handle herself when boys abuse their physical strength.

At age 6-7, girls start bringing boys into the power triangle. The boys aren't really part of the triangle, but they can be brought in or out as a way to show power. Additionally, they begin to show interest in experimenting with more advanced forms of relationships. They begin to look into the boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic. That's not to say your daughter is, but she certainly has friends who are claiming to have a boyfriend. At this stage, what a boyfriend is/does is nebulous but significant. It's a clear milestone! At this age it's probably better to focus on what sort of one-on-one behaviors are socially appropriate and which are not.

At this age boys are learning more about the social hierarchy among boys. I don't believe I've noticed one initiate the bf/gf dynamic, but they'll go along with it if asked.

At 8-9 boys will begin bringing girls into the social dynamic. Having a girlfriend becomes a status symbol. Not that your daughter's friend views it like this, but there are boys she knows at this age who are experimenting with this new social relationship. She may be approached for a date or to be someone's girlfriend and should know how to handle that scenario.

At 10-12 girls learn that sex is power. They notice that boys wear a goofy look when they sit too close. They notice older women with their makeup get what they want. As with social and physical cases earlier, they need to be taught not to abuse this power and to recognize examples of that abuse.

I haven't observed much beyond that, so after the next few years you're on your own.

@Momcat, your daughter will learn to act as you teach her to act if she trusts you more than her peers.  These age guidelines above are what generally happens in boys and girls who are left to socialize on their own terms - it's what I would call "stages of cognizance in human biology".

Teaching her to act on things not age appropriate to their cognizant abilities will only confuse them.  Of course, these ages are general guidelines and your daughter could possibly develop as an outlier.  But if you're well in-tune with your daughter you will recognize her progression.

That's why in my house (and my house only) - I taught my children the ages specified in For the Strength of Youth or other things are just guidelines and not our house rules.  8 is the minimum age of baptism, but my children will not be baptized even if they turn 8 if they're not ready to be baptized.  16 is the minimum driving age, but my children will not drive even if they turn 16 if they're not ready to drive.  Same with every other age distinctions.  This especially became an issue when the Church changed the age for Priesthood Quorums from their birthdays to the beginning of the year of their birthdays.  My son who had 9 months before he becomes a Priest in the "old policy" was suddenly faced with becoming a Priest at age 15.  I told him - you don't have to be ordained a Priest if you're not ready.  As it turns out, by January he was ready, so he got ordained with the rest of his age group.

Note:  As @Jane_Doe stated, there's nothing inappropriate about females at any age having friends that are male.  What makes it inappropriate is how your daughter behaves around males and how males behave around her.  They way I taught this to my sons is by teaching them simplistic good touch versus bad touch and simplistic concepts of eternal marriage and chastity since they were young children that gradually became more complex as they started to be cognizant of more complex things.  Then I left them to govern themselves in the company of their friends while I stayed in tune with where they are in their journey as young men of the Priesthood.

 

Edited by anatess2

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Oh good, I'm glad I was just over-thinking it, honestly. The biggest problem in my mind was, I was looking ahead, and I thought, if I continue to let her go to this friends' house (and otherwise hang out with him) for years and years, then at what point would I say, "nope, you can no longer go to his house/a movie/the park/etc because now it's considered a date!"

But I guess I won't worry about it, if it's totally normal for kids to hang out at this age. :)

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3 hours ago, Momcat said:

Oh good, I'm glad I was just over-thinking it, honestly. The biggest problem in my mind was, I was looking ahead, and I thought, if I continue to let her go to this friends' house (and otherwise hang out with him) for years and years, then at what point would I say, "nope, you can no longer go to his house/a movie/the park/etc because now it's considered a date!"

Hanging out at a friend's house is completely different from a date.  They are 2 different things and it's good if you can spot the difference between the 2 just by your daughter's behavior and not just relying on her telling you (because, they don't always tell you).

Here's a perfect example from my experience with my son.  My brother and I live in Florida.  My brother's wife has a brother who lives in Colorado.  They are very close to us and we usually end up visiting each other or our other siblings scattered across the USA.  When we're all together we usually all camp out in either of our houses and the kids just sleep all together on a giant mat on the floor.  They've been doing this since they were babies.  Fast forward 14 years after my son was born and I notice my son developing a different relationship with my brother's wife's brother's daughter... so I sat my son down and we had a talk about this new development.  They still all hang out all through spring/summer/winter breaks in one house... but we had to put new rules down regarding the sleeping arrangement.  My son was only 14, his girlfriend was 15, close to 16.  We still live in Florida, she still lives in Colorado so their relationship is mostly over the phone.  I've known her since she was born so I know she has good character.  I know my son too and how serious he is about his Priesthood and his desire for an eternal marriage.  I was fine with their relationship but the rules we established included not going anywhere together without my other son to accompany.  His girlfriend was Catholic.  When my son got ordained a Priest, he flew to Colorado to baptize her.  Now, my son is 18, she's almost 20, and my son is headed to the MTC in January while she is in her 2nd year at BYU-I.  They haven't been anywhere without either my other son or her sister (who also got baptized with her) accompanying them.  They just never felt a need to go anywhere alone.  

 

3 hours ago, Momcat said:

But I guess I won't worry about it, if it's totally normal for kids to hang out at this age. :)

It's good to have that initial worry - it prompts you to think deeply about everything before setting arbitrary rules or disciplinary actions.

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